Nationals Baseball: Odds and Ends

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Odds and Ends

Starting Pitching Health last words

I spent the last 2 posts talking about the Nats likelihood of facing an injury to a starting pitcher and while that still holds true, I may have sold short their ability to have 4 healthy starters all year. Yes, these great healthy rotations fall apart because of injury, but they also fall apart because of free agency. The reliable pitcher goes away and the team is forced to replace him with someone less reliable. That's not a problem the Nats face with their main four. I looked at the last 5 teams to have 5 starters hit 30+ starts and instead of seeing how they did do the following year, I looked at how they would have done if everyone stayed. (You might have seen this in the last comments - but hey not everyone reads those)

06 WhiteSox - 4
05 Indians - 3
05 Cardinals - 4 (though Morris was terrible and probably hurt)
03 Mariners - 3 (misread this originally)
93 Dodgers - can't be sure, strike year but 4 likely.

Bolstering my theory that an injury will happen, no one would have replicated  five healthy starters.  It's just THAT hard to keep five guys throwing 200IP  healthy all year. But two teams would have hit the 4 level, and another one would have likely also done it if not for the strike.  More importantly, no one would have crashed to the "only 2 healthy starter" level.  Personally that's the level the Nats would have to get to for me to worry about their playoff chances. (So in other words - to reiterate - pitcher injury will happen but alone is not a worry)

Danny is good

Rendon hit a home run!  It's time to begin talk of replacing someone!

Last year, prior to the season, the prevailing theme was "Ian is no good! Trade him and move Danny over! Let Rendon play 2nd".  Then Ian had a breakout year.  Now the talk is "Danny is no good! Trade Danny and let Rendon play 2nd!" The problem is that Danny IS good.

Danny does strikeout a lot and had an off-year hitting. With his pop though, it was still good enough to be average for a 2nd baseman.  His speed? Above average. His fielding? Among the best in the majors. Basically Danny does nothing wrong. It depends on how you look at the defense but last year Danny was somewhere between average and above average.And this is the guy you want to replace? With a guy who primarily projects to be a 3rd baseman?

I feel like this is a "don't know what you've got till it's gone situation".  With a slight improvement at the plate (really it would not take much) Danny is a Top 5 type 2nd baseman. Danny is 26, team controlled until 2017 and  by all accounts a decent fella. This is not the type of player you eye for replacement.I know we're always fascinated by the next big thing but it's not the Espinosas that good teams deal. It's the Skoles and Moores. The guys that haven't produced full-time in the majors and might be overproducing now.

(What should they do with Rendon?  Well IF he does well enough in AA - you play him all over the infield in September.  Then you begin the grooming process for which corner spot you want him to take. Hell - maybe it will be 2nd base even but the 2013 season is going to decide that, not a couple homers in Florida and the fact Danny struck out too much in 2012)

Christian Garcia

Seriously.  Usually I defer to the judgement of the guys in charge because they know this team better than me, but the whole Garcia to starter move was one that I couldn't agree with. So many injuries, so long since he's pitched even close to a starters level of innings. It just didn't make sense. Now he's injured. Still they persist with this starter fantasy. Stop it. Honestly. Stop it. Squeeze what use you can from this broken arm and move on. (I don't expect them to.  Rizzo is loathe to admit defeat - see "The 100 Chances of Wang")


Chinatown Express said...

Re: Rendon, I think the "Danny sucks" psychosis goes a little deeper than you suggest. It's not just that some fans think Rendon is better (with little evidence for that proposition). A lot of them think Danny is so bad he should be benched for Lombo. And that's absurd, since Danny is stronger in every defensive metric and nearly every offensive metric except for K%. There is NO downside to keeping Rendon in the minors long enough to find a natural position for him on the big league roster. We don't need to sell low on a potential top-5 2B.

Re: Garcia, is there any evidence that PRIOR health issues are more detrimental to the FUTURE success of SP than to RP? That's not a rhetorical question: I'm honestly not sure. If the kid is too beat up to be reliable, why would we trust him more in high-leverage relief innings than in starting? Further, is there any evidence that being "stretched out" for a starting role would damage his future effectiveness as a RP?

Sirc said...

I agree completely regarding Espinosa. Unless or until they have a *better* option at that position, I think the Danny dislikers need to find a way to like him. He's good *right now* and everyone agrees that his offensive numbers were mostly offensive. If he gets better at the plate, he's a keeper. If he doesn't get better they still don't have anyone close to his level to replace him. Not yet anyway. Maybe in 2016 or 17, but until then we're damn lucky to have such a good 2B. Most teams don't have anyone nearly as good as Danny was *last year*.

I also agree that the Garcia experiment must stop. He was one of, if not the, best arms out of the bullpen at the end of last season and in the Cards series. To me, the fact that they decided to try him back in the starter role was an indication of how thin their starting pitching ranks have become. Their best starter prospects are years away. Clearly they don't think very highly of the guys between the prospects and the major leage staff, or else why mess with a very very good thing?

Harper said...

CXP- I like to think the Lombo thing is the personification of our primal understanding of baseball offense. If you get hits, you are good. If you strike out, you are bad. Lombo is better than Danny at those things so he makes that base-level impression to people that he's better. But literally in EVERY OTHER WAY Danny is better and at times it's not close.

As for Garcia I'm not sure but I'd imagine that WOULD be the case. Not for any role-related reason, but just because prior health injuries usually lead to future injuries given enough time. As far as pitchers go time=pitches thrown and starters have more pitches thrown. I doubt this trial would hurt any future effectiveness to pitch in relief but the thought is he is going to get injured X innings down the road. If X=180 or so you could get 3 years of relief pitching or 1 year of a starter (probably with at least half in the minors). To the Nats there is more value in relief. (Assuming I'm right)

Sirc - To them Rendon is the better option because he projects to be a better hitter. Forget that how good he actually will be is unknowable. Danny will always fail comparing his reality to another players promise.

No they don't think much of the starter arms (that aren't coming back from injury) but still I think there are more sensical options for a team trying to win in 2013-2015.

Wally said...

Espy has been the starting 2B for two seasons. Ranks 7th in fWAR among all 2Bs over that time. On offense alone, he ranks 13th out of 23 in wOBA (min 900 PAs over that time), middle of the pack. I just don't get the 'he sucks' crowd on this.

Garcia: ok, I am skeptical on the starting pitcher thing too, but you aren't trying to say that he got hurt because of that experiment, right? I mean that it hadn't really started yet. And to give the other side of the argument its due, I believe that there was a theory that it could help lessen his injury concerns by avoiding pitching on successive days. In other words, it isn't the Verducci 'amount of innings' that causes injury, it is pitching when tired or stressed that does it. I don't know which is right (and I don't think anyone really does, at this point, although most know more than me), but just saying.

To me, it is probably the thing that is causing his stuff to be so good that also makes him a high risk for injury (too much unnatural stress on the arm, or torque, or whatever), so yeah, I'd just take what I can get. But I don't think that we even know what the experiment might yield yet.

michael k said...

First, I want to thank you for all the work you do regarding Espinosa. You're right, of course, and I just wish other fans would stop with the fascination with Lombardozzi because of his 20 points higher batting average. Maybe if he dramatically increased his walk rate, it'd be an interesting discussion.

Second, I think what they're looking for with Garcia is a potential #6 starter pitching out of AAA, not a long-term solution at starter after Haren leaves. He gives you more value out of the pen because we know he'd be good at it and it would give him a major league spot, but the pen seems pretty good right now. What does not seem good is short term starting pitching depth. So I think he's more valuable to the Nats as that #6 guy, even if he never pitches an inning in the MLB this year, than another righty long reliever which the Nats already have.

Also, if pitching health does hold up this year (which I know you don't think it will), he can always make the move back to the pen come September + playoffs. He can't really make the jump from the pen to the rotation without a few weeks of being stretched out.

Mythical Monkey said...

"The 100 Chances of Wang"

To quote Sterling Archer, "Phrasing!"

blovy8 said...

Part of the deal with Lombo from a fan perspective is that he's the underdog, not a first round guy like Espy. He had to earn his playing time being out of position. You watch him running out grounders for his outs, instead of missing the ball and going back into the dugout. It's visceral. You allow for sluggers striking out because of the chance at a long ball, but 17 homers aren't enough to get people to forget all the summer breezes Danny creates. Nobody goes to a game to watch walks and Espinosa is doing less of that anyway. Nobody "hates" the guy or anything. It's just that when you watch a guy strike out eight times in a row, you think, hell, I could do that. If you witness ten times as many K's as HR's what are you going to remember seeing?

It's always worried me that part of his OBP came from hit by pitches. It's tough enough to stay healthy playing 2B, that will make the odds worse. I mean, the shoulder issue doesn't surprise me as 2B's go - but his intensity plays against him in going out there hurt. I also have heard that the Nats' coaching hasn't had much effect on improving his approach and there's a level of frustration, even if he still has the front office's vote of confidence.

Much as Desmond had to hit for power and get more confident defensively to be assured of his spot last year, Espinosa needs to make more contact or hit a lot more fly balls to stave off talk of Rendon replacing him in the near future. His defense gives him more time to develop, but it's not enough to keep him starting over a good hitter who's athletic enough to learn the position, and he's entering his peak years. It has to happen in the next two years. Right now, Danny's about average, but it took a lucky batting average on balls in play to get there. His numbers are going in the wrong direction and he's got a shoulder issue. He's been worse from the dominant side of the plate where he will get the most at bats. As a power guy hitting fewer fly balls and making less contact this year than the last, he needs to have a year better than 2011 to feel secure, I'd say. It's going to take striking out about five percent less, and hitting 10 percent more flyballs. Then maybe he gets the mid-20s homers to go with the .240 average and .310 OBP. A flyball guy can't count on hitting for average unless he makes enough of those go over the wall. A groundball guy isn't hitting homers and can't be striking out more than 20 percent of the time unless he runs like Bourn.

blovy8 said...

Ok, Espinosa was only a 3rd round guy.

Harper said...

Wally - Easy Desmond - one of the best ss, Zimm - one of the best 3rd baseman, LaRoche - one fo the best 2st basemen. The goalposts have moved.

As for Garcia Maybe the move will lessen his injury concerns but I have a hard time believing that considering he injured himself 3 times trying to be a starter, got through a healthy full year as a reliever, and now has hurt himself mere weeks into converting into a starter. (was it that? I don't know. I have no idea of what his workouts were but it does seem awfully suspicious right?)

mk - Now I know why baseball reference lists him and Danny Michael K Espinosa.

I can see why they Nats would want him as a starter. I just think it's more of a dream that a legit possibility and I fear that he'll go 100 IP or so and his arm will die so the Nats will have no starter OR reliever for the stretch run. We know they can get something out of him right now. They are a team trying to win right now. So that solution makes the most sense to me, even if what they get isn't a huge deal.

MM - No more Wang jokes... so sad

blovy8 - I'll agree he's the most likely guy to be replaced because ot everything you say. Still I don't think he should be singled out just yet. He might been trending the wrong way but he's been good and he's still young and cheap.

Wally said...

Except for the contract, which may cause a non- baseball decision to be made, I think that you could make a better argument that Werth needs to show some power or be replaced in 2014 for Rendon than Espy. Based on the last two years who is ranked more highly at their position - Werth or Espinosa?

Could Rendon play LF? Braun and Gordon made the 3b to LF move and became above average fielders. We know from personal experience that you can win with Morse out there. Rendon has to be at least somewhere between those two points, no?

But I am not saying that any of this has to happen. There is plenty of time and people will play themselves into these alternatives.

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